American Resistance To Empire

Iraq’s Sadr militia agrees to disband, surrender weapons to Baghdad

The paramilitary wing of influential Iraqi cleric Muqtada al Sadr on Monday agreed to disband its forces and hand over its cache of weapons to the Iraqi government, making it the first Shia militia to lay down its arms in the aftermath of Islamic State’s defeat in the country.

During a televised speech Monday, Mr. al-Sadr called upon the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi allow members of his militia, known as Saraya Al-Salam, to join the Iraqi security forces or take positions within the federal government. He also demanded Baghdad “look after the families of the martyrs” who were killed during the three-year war against ISIS via compensation and support.

Other Shia paramilitaries, such as the Iranian-backed Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba’, a militia force of roughly 10,000 fighters, vowed last month to turn over any heavy weapons it had to Iraqi security forces once Islamic State had been driven from the country. Despite such promises, Mr. Sadr’s forces remain the only Shia militia under the Popular Mobilization Forces or PMF banner to hand over its arms to government forces.

At its height during the fight against ISIS, Saraya Al-Salam held sway over 2,000 square kilometers of Shia-dominated territory in northern Iraq, mostly in Nineveh province. Militia spokesman Safaa al-Timeemi told the Washington Times last September that the group would acquiesce to Baghdad’s control — but only if Mr. Sadr made the order.

“We commit to the direction and orders of [Muqtada al-Sadr],” Mr. al-Tameemi said during an interview in Baghdad at the time.

“If he says we should be part of this new organization, then we will. If not, then we will not,” he said, adding the militia “are not a replacement for the [Iraqi] army but we are in support of the army,” he said.

The Sadr group’s decision to disarm comes as other Iranian-backed paramilitaries with the PMF, with the direct backing of military commanders in Tehran, gained more popular support in Shia enclaves newly liberated from ISIS control.

That expanding support has allowed Iran to lock in so-called “Shia Crescent” of influence across the heart of the Middle East, assembling a network of Tehran-backed proxy forces now spanning from nation’s border with Iraq all the way to Lebanon. And in Iraq “the PMF is the guarantor” of the land bridge tying Tehran to the Mediterranean, Sarhang Hamasaeed, the head of Middle East Programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace, told The Times earlier this month.

Prior to the rise of ISIS in Iraq, Mr. Sadr’s Mahdi Army and other Sadrists battled U.S. and coalition forces in Najaf and Sadr City during some of the worst fighting of the American occupation of the country in mid-2000. A known Shia hardliner, Mr. Sadr’s position had begun to soften as other Iranian-backed paramilitaries with the PMF gained more popular support in Shia enclaves newly liberated from ISIS control.

A September meeting between Mr. Sadr and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was seen as an effort by Riyadh to hedge its bets against increased Iranian influence in Iraq. Mr. Sadr was reportedly invited at the time by the crown prince and Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to Iraq Thamer al-Sabhan, to the country for “discussions of common interest” between the kingdom and Iraq.

It was the first visit back to Saudi Arabia for the controversial Iraqi Shia cleric since 2006, al Jazeera reported at the time. Saudi Arabia officially reopened its embassy in Iraq in 2015, after a 25-year diplomatic absence in the country, according to the report.


Turkey Calls Israel “Terrorist State”, Then Does 18.6 million Euro Bus Deal

[SEE: Erdoğan: Israel is a terrorist state]

Israel signs deal worth 18.6 million euros with Turkey amid political turmoil

Emre Özpeynirci – ISTANBUL

Israel signs deal worth 18.6 million euros with Turkey amid political turmoil

Israel has signed a deal worth nearly 18.6 million euros with Turkey’s Anadolu Isuzu, a joint automotive manufacturing venture between Turkey’s Anadolu Group and Japan’s Isuzu Motors, to buy buses, the Public Disclosure Platform (KAP) said on Dec. 6.

“A deal to make a delivery worth 18.6 million euros has been signed with our Israeli distributor Universal Trucks Israel Ltd., the company which won the bid,” KAP said in a statement.

“The submittal of the delivery mentioned hereby is planned to begin in 2018, and is expected to be completed by 2019,” it added.

Anadolu Isuzu produces 25 different models within five segments in Turkey. While the greatest capital is spared to the midibus, which compromises one-fourth of the production share, the D-Max pick-up follows with 12 percent.

Anadolu Isuzu currently has 823 workers. Its revenue in 2016 was 830 million Turkish Liras.

In 2016, a total of 5,240 vehicles were produced, of which 666 were exported, by the company headquartered in Istanbul.

Pakistan Army Chief admits that extremism is being taught in madrassas

Pakistan Army Chief accepts that extremism is being taught to students in some madrassas in his country, he wants the practice to be stopped.


Pakistan’s Army Chief of Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that some religious madrassas in Pakistan teach extremism to students and called for the revision of the curricula and activities of these madrassas. 

This is the first time that a high-ranking officer of Pakistan military has criticizes activities of madrassas. Bajwa says the things that are taught in these madrassas distance the students from today’s education and moves Pakistan backward.

The Afghan Chief Executive’s Office said on Saturday that religious madrassas in Pakistan have been promoting insurgency in the region for many years.

“Pakistani madrassas have been used for promoting insurgency for so many years. The war that is ongoing in Afghanistan is fueled by fighters that come from Pakistani madrassas. If Pakistan takes practical actions to review these madrassas, it is good and we also expect that work should be done to prevent Pakistani madrassas from being centers for strengthening insurgency and extremism,” the Chief Executive Officer’s deputy spokesman, Jawed Faisal said.

Currently, over 200 000 madrassas have been registered in Pakistan and hundreds of others are not registered. Over 2.5 million students are learning in these madrassas.

“Arab countries’ intelligence and Pakistan intelligence have ISI mullahs such as Sami-Ul-Haq and Faiz-ul-Rahman. To create instability in Afghanistan and because of Pakistan’s deep strategic (goals) in Afghanistan, they want to create a force out of politics under the religious structure. That led to the establishment of madrassas to train mullahs,” former deputy minister to interior ministry Mirza Mohammad Yarmand said.

“It does not need a review. Pakistan should immediately take actions to eliminate the centers of insurgency training which are a threat to the world,” MP Fatima Aziz said.

Experts say that Pakistan’s history is bound with the Islamic extremism and that it is difficult to believe that Pakistan would close these madrassas.

Top US/UN Troublemaker, Jeffrey Feltman, Makes Unannounced 4-Day Visit To North Korea

UN official visits North Korea

Pyongyang needs to find exit from nuclear crisis


Undersecretary-General Jeffrey Feltman’s visit to North Korea appears to be a positive signal on global efforts to defuse tension over the country’s nuclear and missile threats. Feltman, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state, began a four-day visit to the North, Tuesday.

The rare trip to the isolated country by a senior United Nations official is drawing keen attention. It comes after the North test-fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-15, last week, which it claimed was capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

Pyongyang declared it had completed the development of its nuclear weapons system through the successful launch of the ICBM. The launch followed its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September. These provocations have escalated the tension, raising the possibility of the U.S. using military options to solve the nuclear crisis.

Feltman’s visit carries implications for the crisis as it may offer an opportunity to open dialogue between the reclusive country and international society. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Feltman will discuss “issues of mutual interest and concern” with North Korean officials.

He is expected to meet Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Vice Minister Pak Myong-guk as well as U.N. staff stationed in the North. It is unclear whether he will meet with the young North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. If such a meeting takes place, it may indicate that the Kim regime is interested in talks with the international body and probably with the U.S.

Feltman is also likely to talk with his hosts about a potential visit by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the North. If Pyongyang allows his visit, the U.N. chief may broker talks to find a negotiated solution to the crisis. Guterres has already shown his willingness to play a mediating role to create peace on the Korean Peninsula.

On the part of North Korea, the Kim regime may need to find an exit from the ever-rising confrontation with the U.S. and its allies. Speculation has it that the North will come back to negotiations after it completes its nuclear program. Pyongyang reportedly wants to have direct talks with Washington on the condition that the latter recognizes it as a nuclear state. But the U.S. and its allies cannot accept this condition.

For now, it is unlikely there will be a major breakthrough from the U.N. official’s mediating efforts because no one knows what the North really wants. Critics question the intention of Pyongyang’s invitation to Feltman to the country. The North may try to use his visit as a ploy to prevent the world from taking harsher sanctions against it.

Despite such skepticism, we hope that the U.N. will keep serving as a mediator to solve the North Korean issue peacefully. Feltman ought to deliver to the Kim leadership the international community’s determination not to tolerate its nuclear blackmail. And Pyongyang should drop its hostility and return to dialogue to avoid self-destruction before it’s too late.

“Russian or Syrian aircraft crossed into our airspace”…there…can be no “US airspace” in Syria.

[US concerned Russian aircraft behavior could spark clash over Syria]

“Russian or Syrian aircraft crossed into our airspace…spokesman for US Air Force Central Command…,  there… can be no US airspace ‘of its own.’

Russian Su-35 chased away rogue US F-22 jet: MoD blasts US Air Force for hampering Syria op

Russian Su-35 chased away rogue US F-22 jet: MoD blasts US Air Force for hampering Syria op
A Russian interceptor has been scrambled to stop a rogue US fighter jet from actively interfering with an anti-terrorist operation, the Russian Defense Ministry said. It also accused the US of provoking close encounters with the Russian jets in Syria.

A US F-22 fighter was preventing two Russian Su-25 strike aircraft from bombing an Islamic State (IS, former ISIS) base to the west of the Euphrates November 23, according to the ministry. The ministry’s spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov described the episode as yet another example of US aircraft attempts to prevent Russian forces from carrying out strikes against Islamic State.

“The F-22 launched decoy flares and used airbrakes while constantly maneuvering [near the Russian strike jets], imitating an air fight,” Konashenkov said. He added that the US jet ceased its dangerous maneuvers only after a Russian Su-35S fighter jet joined the two strike planes.

The major general went on to say that “most close-midair encounters between Russian and US jets in the area around the Euphrates River have been linked to the attempts of US aircraft to get in the way [of the Russian warplanes] striking against Islamic State terrorists.” He also said that the US military officials provided no explanation for the November 23 incident as well as other, similar encounters.

The statement came as a response to the Pentagon’s claims about “an increase in unsafe behavior” by Russian warplanes. “We saw anywhere from six to eight incidents daily in late November, where Russian or Syrian aircraft crossed into our airspace on the east side of the Euphrates River,” Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, the spokesman for US Air Force Central Command, told CNN earlier on Saturday.

Konashenkov said that any claims made by US military officials concerning the fact that there is “any part of the airspace in Syria that belongs to the US” are “puzzling.” Konashenkov also said that “Syria is a sovereign state and a UN member and that means that there… can be no US airspace ‘of its own.’ Unlike the Russian Air Force, the US-led coalition is operating in Syria without any legal basis,” he added.

Pickart also said that the US’ “greatest concern is that we could shoot down a Russian aircraft because its actions are seen as a threat to our air or ground forces.” Earlier, he also told the New York Times that it has become “increasingly tough for our [US] pilots to discern whether Russian pilots are deliberately testing or baiting us into reacting, or if these are just honest mistakes.”

The New York Times also listed several cases of what the US describes as “unsafe behavior” by the Russian jets, citing the data provided by the US air base in Qatar. The US accused the Russian pilots of “crossing into the airspace east of the Euphrates” and flying “dangerously close” to the “allied forces,” adding that such actions could be interpreted as “threatening” and the US pilots were “in their rights” to fire in “self-defense.”

Konashenkov said in response that the US Air Force should rather focus on destroying Islamic State in Iraq than provoking close encounters between the US and the Russian jets.

Pickart said to CNN that the US military regularly talk to their Russian counterparts “in the daily de-confliction calls.” However, the Russian military repeatedly pointed out that the US is reluctant to share its plans for combat aircraft operations, and acts secretively in Syria.

The US and the Russian military have traded jibes over various incidents involving both countries’ warplanes in the Syrian skies. Washington accused Russian jets of not carrying transponders allowing air-traffic controllers to identify them, while Moscow repeatedly said that the US military only “occasionally” indicate the time period and an approximate area of their air operations without even giving the types of aircraft and their affiliation.

Back in 2015, the US and Russia agreed upon the mutual flight safety memorandum regulating the flight paths and contacts of the countries’ air forces in Syria during an emergency situation. The two countries also set up a hotline for their militaries to discuss the approximate locations and missions of planes in an attempt to avoid operating in the same airspace at the same time.

However, both sides later repeatedly accused each other of being reluctant to use the instruments at their disposal to reconcile the issues related to their actions in Syria. Most recently, Colonel Jeff Hogan, deputy commander of the air operations center at the Qatar base, called the daily phone calls between the US and Russian military “contentious.” The US also said that the dialogue does not always reflect what happens in the skies over Syria.

In January, Konashenkov complained that the US officers often “simply cannot be found on the other side of the ‘hotline’ in Qatar, designed to discuss and resolve contentious issues” and urged them to “use this hotline more often and for its direct purposes.”

Iraq declares final victory over Islamic State]

[Iraq declares final victory over Islamic State]

“Honourable Iraqis: your land has been completely liberated. The dream of liberation is now a reality,” Abadi said in a televised address.

Iraq launches ISIS desert offensive, Russia offers help 


Iraqi and Hashd al-Shaabi forces advance on al-Qaim in western Anbar province in early November. Photo: AFP
Iraqi and Hashd al-Shaabi forces advance on al-Qaim in western Anbar province in early November. Photo: AFP

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraq announced their latest offensive against ISIS in its remaining holdout in the country’s western deserts on Friday.

Iraqi forces and Hashd al-Shaabi militias “launched a major drive to clear areas of the al-Jazeera region between Nineveh and Anbar,” the Joint Operations Command said in a statement.

While ISIS no longer holds any urban centres in Iraq, Prime Haider al-Abadi has said he will not declare final liberation until the remote desert areas along the Iraq-Syria border are cleared of the militants.

Russia, after announcing the defeat of ISIS across the border in Syria, has offered its assistance to the US-led global anti-ISIS coalition to defeat the militant group in Iraq.

“Russia is ready for dialogue to join US-led coalition to help defeat ISIS in Western Iraq,” Russia’s Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko tweeted on Thursday, referencing the Russian Ministry of Defence.

Russia has been propping up Damascus in the civil war and providing military support for Syrian regime forces, but has not played a role in the war against ISIS in Iraq.

Kurds in Syria, who had been the key coalition ally fighting ISIS on the ground, have recently begun to strengthen their ties with Russia.

Nuri Mahmud, spokesperson of the Kurdish armed forces YPG, joined Russian military personnel on December 3 to announce the defeat of ISIS in northern Deir ez-Zor province, east of the Euphrates.

In an interview with local ANF media published on Thursday, Mahmud contradicted Russian assertions that ISIS is defeated throughout all of Syria.

“ISIS still hasn’t been completely eliminated in Syria. It wouldn’t be appropriate to assume so, and that line of thought would not serve the process either, because ISIS is still on the field in the military sense,” he said. “There needs to be a great war against that.”

He stressed however, that “the support Russia will offer to the ongoing struggle against ISIS is important for us.”

The closer relations between the Kurdish forces and Russia come as the United States has said it is adjusting its support for the YPG as the focus shifts to stabilization. Mahmud, however, asserted that their ties with the United States remain strong.

“Our partnership in the fight against ISIS continues,” he said. “This relationship will continue until ISIS is eliminated.”

The main question for Syria now is what kind of a country will be built, post-ISIS, Mahmud said.

Kurds have established a semi-autonomous federal system in northern Syria – a governance style they believe will solve the problems that drove Syria into civil war.

Turkey is opposed to the Kurdish endeavours. Ankara believes the Kurdish groups, the YPG and its political wing the PYD, are extensions of the PKK, a named terrorist organization. The YPG and PYD deny the charge.

Turkey launched its Euphrates Shield operation in summer 2016 with the stated aim of clearing its borders of terrorists – battling ISIS in northern Syria and preventing Kurds from expanding their territory.

Ankara is currently threatening military action in the western Kurdish canton of Afrin and Turkish troops are establishing observation posts in Idlib province, ostensibly as part of creating a de-escalation zone as agreed to by Turkey, Iran, and Russia in the Astana process.

Mahmud said that Turkey’s “intention to invade Syria has called the stillbirth” of its relationship with Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Turkey on December 11 to meet Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president’s spokesperson announced. Developments in Syria will be one topic on the agenda.

Brig. Gen. Defector From Syrian Dem. Forces Testifies That U.S. Let Thousands of Fighters Flee Raqqa


Then Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesperson Brigadier General Talal Silo speaks during a press conference in Hukoumiya village, in Raqqa, Syria, on June 6. The flag of the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army, into which Silo handed himself weeks ago, appears on the right. Rodi Said/Reuters

U.S. Made Secret Deal With ISIS to Let Thousands of Fighters Flee Raqqa to Battle Assad in Syria, Former Ally Says


The U.S. military allowed thousands of Islamic State militant group (ISIS) fighters to flee from their de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, in a secret deal that boosted the U.S. fight against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to a Pentagon-backed Kurdish commander, who has since switched his allegiance to Turkey and who spoke to Reuters.

As the spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces, a mostly Kurdish coalition of Arabs and ethnic minorities, Brigadier General Talal Silo acted as the face and the voice of the U.S.’s leading partner against ISIS in Syria. The U.S.-backed group successfully ousted ISIS from Raqqa in October. Weeks later, in mid-November, Silo handed himself over to Turkey, an enemy of Kurdish efforts in northern Syria. For the first time since his switch, the senior commander has spoken out and claimed that the U.S.-led coalition let significantly more fighters out of the embattled city than it previously admitted to.

Related: Russian military wants to help Trump destroy ISIS in Iraq

“[An] agreement was reached for the terrorists to leave, about 4,000 people, them and their families,” Silo told Reuters Friday, claiming that all but about 500 who fled were ISIS fighters.

RTX3LA1C A member of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces holds up an ISIS flag claimed after battling the militants in Raqqa, Syria, on August 14. A high-ranking commander of the mostly Kurdish force has defected to Turkey and claimed his former comrades made a secret deal to allow ISIS fighters to flee. Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

News of a covert agreement between the Syrian Democratic Forces and ISIS was first leaked last month after a BBC News investigation. The U.S.-led coalition denied being a party to any agreements, telling Newsweek it does not “make deals with terrorists,” but acknowledging that its partner had let convoys depart the city allegedly on humanitarian grounds. The BBC investigation, citing an unnamed “Western officer” who claimed he or she was present during the discussions, said 250 ISIS fighters left along with 3,500 family members, some of whom may have fled the country into neighboring Turkey.

Silo, who has not given any reason for his defection, said that his forces blocked all travel to Raqqa for three days in October, claiming ongoing clashes made movement too dangerous. In reality, he said, they were covering up the exit of thousands of ISIS fighters and hundreds of their family members.

“It was all theater,” Silo told Reuters.

“The announcement was cover for those who left for Deir Ezzor,” he added.

At the time, the eastern Syrian city was the venue for a vicious battle between ISIS and another major foe—the Syrian military. Syria’s armed forces and allied militias, including Iran-backed Shiite Muslim fighters, have been tackling a widespread uprising by insurgents—who received Western, Turkish and Arab Gulf support—and jihadis since 2011. In 2014, the Russian military intervened at Assad’s request, giving Syrian troops and their partners the momentum to retake most of the country.

As the U.S. dropped support for rebels and focused on its Kurdish partners in the Syrian Democratic Forces trying to take Raqqa, the Syrian military swept across the country toward Deir Ezzor, where a detachment of Syrian soldiers had been trapped behind ISIS lines for three years. Syrian troops, with Russian and Iranian support, broke the siege in early September and ultimately retook the entire city, the last major population center under ISIS control, in early November.

Russia has long accused the U.S. of being ineffective against and even supportive of ISIS and other jihadi groups in Syria. The U.S. has fiercely denied these claims and has charged Russia and its allies with committing human rights abuses in their campaign to defeat both ISIS and rebel groups across the war-torn country.

With ISIS having been defeated almost entirely in Iraq and Syria, both the U.S. and Russia-backed campaigns have begun closing in on what’s left of its once-expansive, self-styled caliphate. The Syrian government has managed to secure the majority of the territory it previously lost, but it still faces swaths of Kurdish control in the north and small pockets of rebel control in the northwest and southwest. In recent months, Russia has taken the lead in overseeing negotiations between Assad, the Kurds and the rebels.

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